Lionsgate Pulls Hulu Pilot 'Crushed' From North Carolina After Anti-Gay Bill

Raleigh North Carolina - H 2016
NCDOTcommunications/CC BY 2.0

Raleigh North Carolina - H 2016

While the studio has spoken out against the new law, tax incentives came into play in the decision to choose a Canadian location.

Lionsgate is moving production on a pilot for the original Hulu comedy Crushed to Canada from North Carolina. The move comes in the wake of North Carolina's governor signing a controversial new anti-LGBT law. While Lionsgate has spoken out against the new law, tax incentives came into play in the decision to choose a Canadian location.

The project, now in preproduction, was originally set to shoot in North Carolina in May, but is now expected to head to Vancouver. A studio spokesperson declined comment on its production plans for the original comedy from Lionsgate Television and Homegrown Pictures. 

Lionsgate earlier scouted locations in British Columbia and North Carolina. In the end, Lionsgate failed to secure a tax break to shoot the Crushed pilot in the Tar Heel state, but was assured of a tax credit to set up shop in the Canadian province.

North Carolina has long attracted Hollywood productions, although it let its tax incentives expire at the start of 2015. Later in the year, the state instituted a new, though less generous, program of grants, capped at $30 million per fiscal year.

The expected move of the Crushed pilot to Vancouver follows the passage of North Carolina's House Bill 2, a new law that bans transgender citizens from entering bathrooms not assigned to their birth-sex, while also prohibiting local anti-LGBT discrimination rules passed by towns and cities in the state. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the legislation into law on March 24.

That same day, Lionsgate issued a statement protesting the passage of the bill as "deplorable and discriminatory," before adding the anti-LGBT law runs "counter to everything we stand for." The law has drawn protests from major companies that do business in the state, and on April 5, Paypal said it was cancelling plans to build a new facility in Charlotte.

The studio at the time said it would go forward with shooting the three-hour filmed musical event Dirty Dancing in North Carolina, in light of its "obligation to the hundreds of people in the state employed by the production," but made no mention of the Crushed pilot. "We will be hard pressed to continue our relationship with North Carolina if this regressive law remains on the books," the studio warned in its statement last month.

McCrory is being urged by others to repeal the law. Similar legislation in Georgia was recently vetoed by that state's Gov. Nathan Deal after Hollywood studios threatened to move productions elsewhere.

The North Carolina law and another piece of anti-gay legislation, passed as a religious liberty bill in Mississippi and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant on Tuesday, have not yet provoked the same level of outcry from Hollywood as the Georgia legislation did — although in the case of Georgia, the third largest film/TV production state after California and New York, Hollywood had more leverage.

In response to the North Carolina law, the Motion Picture Association of America said,“The MPAA and its member companies oppose any law that legitimizes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Director Rob Reiner lent his name to a Human Rights Campaign ad opposing the law. Open Road Films issued a statement, saying, "Open Road Films denounces North Carolina's recent passage of NC House Bill 2. This law is blatantly discriminatory and counter to the values our company holds dear. We stand firmly with the citizens of North Carolina and across the nation who oppose this disgraceful law." And STX Entertainment said, "STX Entertainment is an ardent supporter of diversity, participation and access and opposes discrimination of any kind. While we have no productions currently in these states, these laws are unconscionable and will be a factor in any future decisions involving filming in North Carolina or Mississippi.”

Crushed features Looking star Bashir Salahuddin and Regina Hall as siblings challenging the Napa Valley culture as the only African-American winery in town. Tina Gordon Chism penned the script and serves as executive producer with Stephanie Allain.